How Trump was going to end the Cold War in the 1980s

Story highlights

  • Trump's interest in nuclear negotiation goes back as least as far as 1984
  • Trump's plan was to personally negotiate a nuclear arms deal and do nothing less than end the Cold War

Washington (CNN)Dr. Bernard Lown didn't even know who Donald Trump was when he first heard the name in 1986.

Just the previous year, Lown -- an accomplished cardiologist -- had accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of a group he co-founded to bring physicians together to prevent nuclear war.
The next year, Lown was working to fund a cardiovascular institute. When a member of its executive board said that a wealthy New York real estate developer named Trump wanted to meet him, Lown jumped at the chance.
    That meeting in the spring of 1986, though, didn't go exactly as expected, as Lown first described to The Hollywood Reporter.
    Lown arrived at Trump Tower, he told CNN and "There (Trump) was in all of his pretentious glamour."
    But before Lown could ask Trump for a donation, Trump had an unexpected question of his own, Lown said: "I understand you know about Gorbachev."
    And, in fact, Lown did. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize, he and the Russian co-founder of his group, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, had been invited to meet with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
    Gorbachev had only recently become general secretary in March 1985 after the death of Konstantin Chernenko, which meant Lown was one of the first Americans to sit down with him. What was supposed to be a 15-minute encounter turned into three hours. And Trump wanted to hear all about it.
    But why?
    Because, Lown recalls Trump saying, "I'm going to call Ronnie and ask him to make me ambassador plenipotentiary to Moscow." It took Lown a minute to realize that by Ronnie, Trump meant President Ronald Reagan.
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    Trump's plan, Lown says today, was to personally negotiate a nuclear arms deal and -- in the process -- do nothing less than end the Cold War.
    "It'll take one hour of discussion before the Cold War is over," Lown said Trump told him.
    Lown told Trump that in his opinion, Gorbachev might be ready to make a deal and that he also found the Soviet leader intelligent and knowledgeable. It was not the same impression he formed of Trump.
    "I thought he was inattentive and self-concentrated. I thought what he said was idiocy. He didn't understand the complexity of the issues."
    A representative of the Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment on Trump's past plans to be a negotiator.
    Trump's interest in nuclear negotiation goes back as least as far as 1984 when he told The Washington Post "it would take an hour-and-a-half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles. ... I think I know most of it anyway."
    "Some people have an ability to negotiate," he continued. "It's something that somebody should do that knows how to negotiate and not the kind of representatives that I have seen in the past."
    Trump never explained to Lown why nuclear weapons were of such an interest to him, and Lown -- who is credited with pioneering the lifesaving cardiac defibrillator -- never did have a chance to ask Trump for a donation to his cardiovascular foundation.
    Trump would eventually visit Moscow in 1987 to meet with Gorbachev, although not as an ambassador.
    The topic, as The New York Times reported at the time, was developing luxury hotels. But the Times also noted that "Mr. Trump's calls for nuclear disarmament were also well-known to the Russians."
    The following year, an early schedule of Gorbachev's trip to New York City called for a return visit to Trump at Trump Tower, but it never materialized.
    Russian officials blamed the earlier itinerary item on a misunderstanding.
    Trump's plan to negotiate with Gorbachev wasn't that much different from his negotiating style 30 years later.
    Everything was about Trump's personality, Lown said.
    "He would so charm Gorbachev that he would have no option but to agree with him," he said.